To recap, the university's and the Louisiana Division of Administration's excuse for not releasing the new appraisal was that it was conducted "in anticipation of litigation." Then the university also said it wasn't expecting to be sued over the botched land swap deal, the one where 36 acres of UL's Johnston Street horse farm would be exchanged for Davidson's 4 residential acres on Girard Park Drive to expand UL's campus.
In the latest head-scratching development in the land swap debacle, last week Authement's attorney, Steve Oats, told The Independent Weekly's legal counsel, Gary McGoffin, that the state may expropriate the Davidson property, a legal process also commonly referred to as eminent domain. The state claims if it can't negotiate a deal to buy Davidson's property, it may take the old homes and acreage ' private property that isn't even connected with the university campus. The courts would decide whether the state has a right to take the site, and Davidson (a past president and current member of the UL Board of Trustees) would have a right to a trial by jury to determine his compensation. That's the litigation they're anticipating.
This justification for keeping the record from the public appears to be a desperate measure in Authement's longstanding mission to acquire Davidson's property. In late 2003, Davidson's good friend, appraiser George Parker, was hired by Authement to value the land and homes, and Parker came up with a $3.25 million price tag.
That's what Davidson thought he'd get in the land swap, especially after the Board of Supervisors for the UL System approved the deal in mid-2005. Under intense criticism over the dubious $3.25 million valuations of both the horse farm and Davidson properties and numerous questions about the cozy group of principals involved, in December the board asked the state DOA to recommend a new, "independent" appraiser. In all likelihood Davidson's came back a couple of months ago from independent appraiser Lane Godshall at about half of Parker's appraisal (the horse farm has not yet been reappraised), but concerned residents won't know for sure until they get to see the document.
Presumably, neither Authement nor Davidson liked the outcome of the new valuation, leading to the decision to keep the record from the public. Authement announced in mid-July that the land swap deal was off ' but that he's still seeking money from the state's cash-strapped higher education board to buy the Davidson land outright.
Perhaps the most interesting twist in the saga's expropriation chapter is Davidson's experience with this kind of legal work. For years, he handled expropriation matters for local government, with George Parker (who is now retired) conducting the appraisals.
The new appraisal is unquestionably a public document, says Josh Zelden, an attorney for the Louisiana Press Association. The "anticipation of litigation" exemption applies to executive sessions held as part of public meetings ' not to this type of public record. And in cases where closed-door executive session meetings are called to discuss pending litigation, an attorney general's opinion holds that there must be a written demand and the parties disclosed. So for the state to even attempt to piggy-back on this exemption it must produce a written demand from its would-be opponent, Davidson (a demand it has not disclosed because it likely does not exist) and show that public discussion of the case would be detrimental to the state's position or strategy. Only then could the documents related to this exemption be legally kept from the public. "It is irrational and self-contradictory to suggest that disclosure of an appraisal showing a lower value for the property in question could hurt the public body attempting to acquire the property," says Zelden. "It can only help."
It's unclear what kind of argument the state will make to support expropriation of the property. To successfully take private property, government must prove there is a public or "necessary" purpose, like construction of an interstate. But some state and local governments have been trying to take private property for economic development purposes; the issue has become a political hot potato in post-Katrina Louisiana, and this fall voters will decide on a far-reaching constitutional amendment to restrict expropriation for economic development purposes.
Why the state would consider creating a legal mess over this already controversial piece of property is anyone's guess. And if its latest excuse has any legitimacy, although it still falls short of proving the appraisal should not be released to the public, is any private property on Girard Park Drive ' or anywhere in Lafayette, for that matter ' safe from the university's grasp?
The Louisiana Supreme Court has punted on its first chance to decide whether a new state constitutional provision declaring gun possession a fundamental right could void a long list of criminal statutes that regulate firearms.
New Orleans' offense, which ranks sixth in the NFL, isn't helping many of its skill players pile up Pro Bowl-type stats. Rather, the approach of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees has enabled a wide range of play-makers to emerge periodically with high-production outings.
An ordinance phasing out a rebate businesses receive for collecting and remitting sales taxes is tabled, but it doesn’t solve the vexing issue of government revenue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, December 12, 2013:
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
That would be Congressman John Fleming talking about Sen. David Vitter.
The alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme that went on for four years under DA Mike Harson’s nose isn’t just schizophrenic, bipolar and recovering from mini strokes; he now says he has cancer.
Louisiana's higher education leaders are trying to work out a financing deal to keep the state's public colleges from running low on state cash to operate their campuses.
With their latest triumph, the Saints left little doubt about how tough they are to beat in the Superdome. Unfortunately, two of their remaining three games are on the road.
For the first time in at least five years, retired teachers, state workers and school system employees could see an increase in their pension checks.
Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration shared a collective sigh of relief with the news that Louisiana's tax amnesty program brought in the $200 million that they used to help balance this year's budget.
Drew Brees often makes the extraordinary look routine, particularly during night games in the Superdome.
The teams were extended invitations Sunday for the New Year's Day matchup played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.